Lal Bhoplyachi Bhaji | Red Pumpkin Bhaji
Marathi food doesn’t get talked about much in the West. Even in India, it seems to get less attention than some of its neighbouring cuisines. But it’s a marvelously varied, refined, and inventive branch of Indian cooking, melding influences of the coast, the mountains, and the plains. It’s hard to really categorize simply because it embodies so many different moods, but I’m always delighted when I find a new (to me) Marathi recipe. This simple lal bhoplyachi bhaji, made with red pumpkin, is a true treasure—extremely simple, but with an incredibly complex and captivating flavor and layers of texture, from the sweet, soothing lushness of the pumpkin to the unctuousness of the oil-slicked spices, to the mild crunch of the crumbled sesame seeds sprinkled on at the end. I owe this recipe to my friend Aditi Halbe, whose grandmother’s recipe this is.
Note: This recipe calls for goda masala, a Marathi spice blend lesser known in the West, but one you should become intimately familiar with. It’s a fascinating blend of sweet, hot, and earthy. It’s hard to really describe, and the best versions come from homes where the spices are painstakingly pan-roasted and then ground together. Some well-stocked Indian stores will carry it, but if you can’t find it (which, sadly, in the US, is likely), you can try making your own, following this great recipe from A Mad Tea Party.
Lal Bhoplyachi Bhaji
3 tbsp neutral oil
8–10 methi (fenugreek) seeds
¼ tsp hing (asafoetida)
1 tsp black mustard seed
½ tsp haldi (turmeric)
1 lb dense pumpkin such as koginut, kabocha, acorn, or Hokkaido
1 tsp hot chilli powder
1 tsp goda masala (see note above)
1.5 tsp jaggery
crushed toasted sesame seeds or peanuts
In a kadhai or other wide pan, heat the oil over medium heat till it begins to shimmer.
Add the methi seeds
, hing, black mustard, and turmeric and allow it to bloom briefly in the oil. Take care not to let the spices burn.
Add the pumpkin and toss to cover well with the oil and spices. Cook for 2–3 minutes until the pumpkin is glossy and coated with the oil.
Add the goda masala and chili powder along with half a teaspoon of salt. Toss to coat again and then add half a cup of water.
Cover the pan with a lid and allow to cook at a brisk simmer for 5–10 minutes, until the pumpkin is tender enough to crush with the side of a spoon.
When the pumpkin is cooked and the liquid in the pan is reduced to a thick glaze, add the jaggery and stir to combine well.
Taste for salt and adjust seasoning as needed. Garnish with crushed toasted sesame or peanuts and serve with hot rotis.